×

New Ipswich couple killed in Epping crash, husband longtime police officer

  • A New Ipswich couple was killed in a three-car crash in Epping Thursday night. Photo by Epping Fire & Rescue

  • Townsend police Sgt. john Johnson of New Ipswich and his wife were killed in a crash in Epping Thursday night. Townsend Police Department



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, January 11, 2019 11:37AM

A New Ipswich husband and wife were killed in a crash on Route 101 in Epping Thursday night.

John Johnson, 58, of New Ipswich, who was a police sergeant for Townsend, Massachusetts, for the past 41 years, was driving a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, with his wife Heidi Johnson, 57, as a passenger, when the fatal crash occurred.

“It is with great sadness that I am sharing news of the tragic death of Sgt. John Johnson and his wife in a car crash. Sgt. Johnson has served the Townsend community since 1978. Please take time to remember this fine officer and his family. We will share additional details on the funeral arrangements as they become available,” Townsend Police Chief Richard B. Bailey said in a Facebook post Friday morning.

New Hampshire State Police were notified Thursday night around 11:41 p.m. of a wrong-way driver on Route 101 westbound in the area of Exit 7.

“Within a minute or two of the original call, troopers came across a serious motor vehicle collision involving multiple vehicles on Route 101 westbound in the town of Epping. The crash involved three vehicles and resulted in fatal injuries being sustained by two occupants in one of the vehicles involved,” state police said in a press release Friday morning.

According to state police, Ryan Kittredge, 31, of Derry, driving a 1998 Dodge 1500 pickup, reportedly made a U-turn on Route 101 westbound and was traveling east in the westbound lane when the Dodge collided with the Impala Johnson was driving. State police said Johnson was unable to avoid the collision with the Dodge. The crash disabled both vehicles, which were then blocking both lanes of Route 101.

A third driver, Andrew Neeper, 23, of Raymond, was traveling westbound in the right lane and was unable to see the vehicles blocking the roadway, according to state police. Neeper’s 2015 Ford Fusion collided with Kittredge’s truck.

Both John and Heidi Johnson were pronounced deceased on scene.

Kittredge was taken to Exeter Hospital with serious injuries and later taken by “Med-Flight” to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. On Monday, a representative of Massachusetts General Hospital said Kittredge was no longer a patient at the hospital. Neeper was taken to Exeter Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Heidi and John were married in 2001, and moved to New Ipswich at that time, according to their obituary.

Townsend Deputy Police Chief James Sartell said in an interview Friday that Johnson had begun in the department in 1978, and spent his entire career with the department. He made the rank of sergeant and retired in July of 2018, but remained with the department as one of their reserve officers.

“He was one of those guys who was always going to be retiring any day now,” Sartell said. “He was an old-school policeman.”

Sartell said he started with the department a year ago, and quickly learned that Johnson had a deep knowledge of the town where he’d worked for so long.

“A guy who worked here for 40 years, his knowledge was critical,” Sartell said. “He knew everything and everybody.”

Sartell said that was exemplified when he attended the annual senior cookout, where Johnson manned the grill, complete with a special hat declaring him the “Grill Sergeant.”

“He was a connected guy, very community based,” Sartell said. “He could be serious when needed, but he was also a very funny guy. He’d been here so long, he knew a story about everybody. He could get a room going. He was a solid guy, the kind of guy you want to work with, the kind of guy you wanted to be your boss. There’s not a lot of negatives to say about John.”

Heidi Johnson worked at the Hannaford Supermarket in Rindge. She had four children, three grandchildren and was a guardian for her sister, Linda Roberts.

The New Hampshire Collision Analysis and Reconstruction or C.A.R. Unit was called to the scene to assist with the investigation due to the severity of the crash. The collision closed Route 101 westbound at Exit 7 for several hours as the investigation was conducted.

State police are asking anyone that may have further information about the collision to call Trooper Daniel Quartulli of the New Hampshire State Police CAR Unit at 603-223-8993 or email him at daniel.quartulli@dos.nh.gov.

Funeral services for John and Heidi Johnson will be held at the St. John’s Church in Townsend on Friday at 11 a.m. Calling hours will be Thursday at 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Anderson Funeral Home in Townsend.

Editor’s note: this story was last updated on Monday, Jan. 14, at 6:20 p.m.